For anyone who may have stumbled in here and be wondering
what on earth this all means, the first weekend of each month sees a
return to childhood book favourites here as I settle down, curl up and
access my Inner Child. Anyone is welcome to join in and read a favourite or two of their own by torchlight under the blankets and it's lovely to hear about your choices in comments.
Marghanita Laski called it 'the most satisfying children's book I know' even Philip Larkin praised it, and 'the wonderfulness of undiscovered things' just one of many of Frances Hodgson Burnett's lines in The Secret Garden, which have struck me all over again this last month and how much I have loved this book again. It felt high risk to choose such a favourite for fear of breaking the spell and losing the magic but thankfully that hasn't happened so far.
I'm almost relieved to get to Inner Child weekend for a rest after recent festival gambols and June's choice felt inspired and has lasted me all of two months, a welcome refuge from the onslaught of all this great writing orbiting my reading world in recent weeks.
Time to relax and reflect, so this weekend I've settled for one very short but wonderful book and some time to gather my thoughts on another one and do some knitting.
But first The Secret Garden.
Aaaahhhh, what can I say but what a joy and a pleasure it has been to enter the imagination of Frances Hodgson Burnett via the paintings of Inge Moore and this beautiful new edition from Walker Books.
'One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live for ever and ever and ever. One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender, solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands alone and throws one's head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing...and one's heart stands still at the strange majesty of the rising sun...'
Sunrise possibly not a moment I witness that often, but I have quite surprised myself with how much I have enjoyed this book again. Much as I love her, Frances Hodgson Burnett has often struck me as a writer of the sickly-sweet cloying sentiment in some of her adult fiction and close analysis would probably reveal plenty of that in The Secret Garden, but somehow when you're being your Inner Child nothing like that seems to matter.
It wouldn't have bothered me as a child and the more I read these books in this frame of mind the less I notice it, I'm not even judging the books by grown-up standards any more, just wallowing in them.
'And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be slowly saying again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries..'
Mary, Dickon and Colin still there, the robin still finding the key, gruff old man of the earth Ben Weatherstaff still mumbling and 'uncompanionable'; the garden still flowering back to life alongside Colin's casting off of the mantle of spoilt, bedridden child; contrary Mary transformed from sallow and miserable into a vivacious and lively girl and that lovely scene at the end when Mr Craven emerges from his prolonged mourning, returns home and Colin runs towards him
'Father, he said, I'm Colin. You can't believe it. I scarcely can myself, I'm Colin.'
and of course 'it was the garden that did it.'
I did read The Secret Garden chapter in Lois Keith's book, Take Up Thy Bed and Walk, Death Disability and Cure in Fiction for Girls, only because I couldn't stop myself and it seemed a pity to waste of a read of this lovely book without applying a tiny bit of grown-up thinking to it.
'The Victorian death story turned into a child's celebration of living' and an understanding of why neglected children behave badly, with the backdrop of the natural world and its healing elements, the enclosed garden as a child's secret world, but really I was still reading as a child and seeing with that child's eye.
Then I picked up Ann Thwaite's biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett, Waiting For the Party because I couldn't stop myself doing that either and came across this,
'Frances was always good at detail. She knew children liked it. It is not enough to mention they have tea, she once said, you must specify the muffins. It is the detail of things that makes them interesting.'
Suddenly I'm intrigued by Frances all over again so perhaps I'll move a re-read of this biography and the one by Gretchen Gerzina plus some of the adult novels onto my reading list this autumn. I've read The Shuttle and The Making of a Marchioness but I have a few more here, mostly bought on eBay very cheaply...any suggestions from these very welcome.
And so to this month's Inner Child choice.
The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico and my edition has exquisite illustrations by Angela Barrett, because how can I not when I have just finished William Fiennes inspirational book The Snow Geese?
Last words to Francis,
'Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure...'